He’s heading into troubled waters!
Coney Island Council hopeful Steven Patzer will lead a team of scuba divers into Coney Island Creek on Saturday to document the contamination in the fetid canal.
The young politico, who will film the dive with a GoPro camera and collect lab samples from four different parts of the creek, hopes the evidence will help Congressman Hakeem Jeffries secure a Superfund cleanup for the the notoriously toxic waterway, he said.
“I wanted to gather a team to collect samples that are being sent to a lab that we hope can aid Congressman Jeffries in his quest to make Coney Island Creek a Superfund site,” said Patzer.
Local environmentalists balked when the District 47 Council candidate first announced his diving plans last fall. The stream bed contains dangerous levels of toxins from decades of factory dumping and fecal matter from more recent pollution, making it a risky endeavor, one environmentalist emphasized.
“Most of the creek bottom is what we call black mayonnaise — very fine, easily dispersed toxic material,” Ida Sanoff told Brooklyn Paper in November 2019. “The Interstate Environmental Commission came down a few years ago, and basically found pure sewage coming out of that outfall.”
One of the last regular divers of the creek was the late expert diver Gene Ritter, according to Coney Island historian Charles Denson. Ritter was an experienced, hard hat diver who also dove in the waters around the Verrazzano Bridge, where he found thousands of live artillery shells, he said in 2016.
Patzer, 23, said his years of scuba diving in New York City has prepared him for the mission. His father, a scuba diving instructor, taught him to dive when he was 15, he said.
Patzer is organizing the expedition with the nonprofit scuba organization, the SuperDive Foundation, and with an environmental lab that is donating a body of tests, Patzer’s spokeswoman, Reyna Gobel, explained. All the divers are experienced, and everyone will wear scuba suits and gear that will cover every part of their bodies, Gobel added. One attendee, a firefighter, will stay on the boat to keep track of the divers as they swim.
Denson said he supported efforts to raise awareness of the creek’s pollution, but said the divers would have to collect lab samples regularly in order to get trustworthy results.
“This sort of testing has to be done on a regular basis at the same location in order to establish an accurate baseline,” he said.
Patzer, though, said that the one-time dive will at least raise the public’s awareness and hopefully “inspire an in-depth study by the government with regular sample collection.”
“Someone has to dive in to the issue in order to bring more awareness to the public that uses the area for recreation and the government that can create legislation and regulations,” he said.
The dive is one of several dozen community events Patzer has hosted since jumping into the Council race in October of 2019. The young upstart moved from his home near Mill Basin to Gravesend shortly before announcing his candidacy for District 47 — which encompasses Coney Island, Sea Gate, and Gravesend — and has since held a flurry of job fairs, food giveaways, and toy drives.
Patzer said he would make a cleanup of Coney Island Creek a priority if elected.
“If elected next year to City Council, this will be one of the issues I champion,” he said.